By Dilek Şen – Bianet
The statements of Sedat Peker, who is accused of being the leader of a criminal organization, have been on Turkey’s agenda for a while now. The allegations made by Peker about unsolved murders in the videos he posted on YouTube have also “opened up for discussion” the problems that rights defenders have been struggling with for years.
Unsolved murders, disappearances, tortures… Who are the main perpetrators of these crimes which are attributed to illegal structures? What is this “deep state”?
Could Peker’s claims cause a confrontation this time? As Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, is there really “no torture in Turkey”?
What is the opposition doing, and what should it do? Who should take part in the proposed investigation commission in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM)?
Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Eren Keskin and a former İHD Co-Chair and rights defender Akın Birdal have talked to bianet.
‘It started in the geography of Kurdistan’
Eren Keskin: The 90s were the years when the Kurdish movement emerged and the Kurdish question was first discussed intensively. It actually started in the geography of Kurdistan. Disappearances in custody and unsolved murders were actually a process initiated against Kurdish people.
We were all receiving threats every day and had to attend to the autopsies of our murdered friends. Many people were disappeared in custody, villages were burned down in those years.
There were very important and well-known actors in that process. We, as human rights defenders, have always expressed this. But especially in the process that started after the accident in Susurluk, other segments of the society started to discuss this issue.
The tradition of ‘Special Organization’
Akın Birdal: The state has a tradition of outlawing things that it cannot or does not do legally when it gets stuck and the solution of problems is blocked. For example, the Special Organization (Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa, in the Ottoman period). It is a tradition originating from the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki) and transferred to the Republic. In fact, all political assassinations and massacres were built on these structures. Susurluk was an opportunity to reveal this structure.
Eren Keskin: There is an established state structure in our geography. Even though we call it the “deep state”, this is actually a real structure. This structure is based on historical reality. The Special Organization tradition has been going on since 1915. As long as this structure does not change, as long as these crimes are covered up, and most importantly, as long as the judiciary is not independent (it will continue.)
This much has been discussed for a month. Has a single prosecutor opened an investigation? Democratization does not come from where prosecutors and judges are afraid. We have no real opposition. We are only 15 percent. Unfortunately, these things do not happen with 15 percent.
‘Failure to confront massacres brought us here’
Akın Birdal: These are the results of the alienation from democracy and law. First of all, it is the result of the failure to resolve the Kurdish question in a democratic-peaceful way. Significant opportunities were also found to solve this problem. With the participation of Kurdish people in the political structure, an addressee was created both in the local administrations and at the Parliament. Unfortunately, this opportunity was wasted. Just like wasting the opportunity created by Susurluk. The fact that attacks, assassinations, and massacres were not confronted has brought us to this day.
Eren Keskin: I regret that these are discussed today because of Sedat Peker. There is so many people’s pain behind it, and unfortunately, it is revealed today with the confessions of a person who committed a crime inside that structure. I wish there was an independent judiciary in Turkey, and lawsuits had been filed upon the demands of the families of the people who lost their lives in those attacks.
Is there no torture?
Akın Birdal: I think the most serious thing today is judicial tutelage. If there is no law for everyone in a country, if the rule of law does not work for everyone, if there is no trust in the law, a great gap is created.
The Minister of Interior [Süleyman Soylu] says that there are no so-called tortures and unsolved murders. Life in Turkey has turned into torture. Inside, in prisons, in the region… In whose era were Tahir Elçi’s? Throwing people off of helicopters? If the persecution of people, women, and children in the region every day is not torture, what is?
What is it, if not torture, that people are completely removed from healthy living conditions and left to die in prisons? Isn’t it called cruelty if people are not able to speak as they think, and they are judged and condemned for what they speak?
Elçi, Dink, Önkol, Kurkut, Roboski…
Eren Keskin: Our comrade Tahir Elçi was killed. Hrant Dink was killed. Ceylan Önkol was killed. Kemal Kurkut was killed. Roboski happened. What else can I say? Women were subjected to sexual torture.
How could Süleyman Soylu say this, say that there wasn’t any? People should go to İHD’s page and examine our reports, they are all documented. Let them examine Amnesty International’s reports.
The Minister of Interior, who says that there has been no torture in his period, has his own statement saying, “I gave the instruction, ‘When you catch him, cut him to pieces, break his foot.'” So, he says it openly. How is it not torture? Torture is actually practiced very intensely.
Mehmet Ağar and Korkut Eken’s ‘roles’
One of the most important actors of the period was [former Interior Minister] Mehmet Ağar. Ağar’s affiliation with all incidents was known to us. For example, Sedat Peker talks about the roles of Mehmet Ağar and [former intelligence officer] Korkut Eken in the murder of [journalist] Kutlu Adalı in his videos today. We have expressed these for years together with [Kutlu Adalı’s spouse] İlkay Adalı. But, unfortunately, there is a state structure in this geography that does not take human rights defenders seriously and ignores them.
It is a pity that we hear all this today because of a fight within the same deep structure. However, we, as human rights defenders, have expressed these for years.
We understood from the first day that the state mind of the 90s came back to work, with the establishment of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) union.
Especially when we saw Mehmet Ağar and [Prime Minister of Turkey in 1993-1996] Tansu Çiller at the rallies, we all understood. We know those processes very well, we know the structure in front of us very well.
Demand for confrontation
Eren Keskin: There is so much confusion in politics! Just as the AKP is tied to the MHP because of the MHP alliance, İYİ Party is tied to [the main opposition Republican People’s Party] CHP. We have such a reality. If all those processes are to be discussed, shall we not discuss [İYİ Party Chair] Meral Akşener? She was also a part of that period, let’s never forget that.
That’s why I say, “There is a problem with the opposition.” Let CHP make its own denunciations, it does not need to wait for the Union of Turkish Bar Associations! Turkey’s main opposition party… They should have done it from day one. But they didn’t. Because they also feed on the same understanding. Frankly, I do not expect anything from the CHP-İYİ Party alliance.
These problems cannot be resolved without demanding confrontation. All of them are partners of this business in some way or another. In other words, we cannot just say that it is the AKP government. This was before the AKP. Was there an AKP in the 90s? But in the end, this structure is so powerful that it can seize any power.
Who should be on the commission?
Akın Birdal: In addition to the representatives of political parties from the Parliament, representatives of human rights organizations and legal institutions should also participate (in the commission).
For example, how transparent would the results of an investigation and inquiry commission, in which the İHD would not take part, be? Not without the Saturday Mothers/People, without the representatives of the bar associations who have not lost their conscience.
Eren Keskin: Politics cannot achieve this. Only if human rights organizations do this. But the tradition of confrontation is only recently weighed down in Turkey.
At the beginning of the struggle are human rights organizations, women’s organizations, and LGBTI+ organizations. I believe that those who are in the real opposition can have a say in this matter. Apart from that, I do not believe that an independent commission can emerge from Parliament.
What is the solution?
Akın Birdal: What needs to be done in the short, medium, and long term? What I’m saying are things that need to be done in the short term. For one thing, isolation must be ended immediately. This is a must for the Kurdish people, a door must be opened immediately. Hunger strikes must end, people’s right to life must be respected.
In the medium term, the solution of the problems, especially the Kurdish question, which justifies the formation of these illegal structures, should be addressed. The issue of a civil, egalitarian, libertarian, and democratic constitution, in which social consensus will be achieved, must be addressed.
The Presidential Government System should be abandoned, and the separation of powers that will open the channels of democracy should be activated immediately. A general pardon should be issued except for those who have committed crimes against humanity, which will constitute the first and important step of social peace. Finally, a snap election should be held, once again democratic and where everyone can express their will. (DŞ/DCE/SD)